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Welcome to Trailspotting, where we review the best hiking, snowshoeing and skiing trails around Northern California and beyond. Our in-depth trail reviews, route maps and free GPS downloads should be enough to tempt you away from the computer and into the great outdoors!

Here are a few of our favourite trails to whet your appetite ..

Half Dome, Yosemite It's difficult to approach Yosemite's Half Dome without a sense of trepidation. Perhaps it's the scale of the seventeen mile hike and 4,800ft elevation gain. Perhaps it's a fear of heights and worry over the final ascent of the cables, almost a mile above the valley floor. Alternatively, maybe it's just the dread of the Yosemite crowds compounded by the added attraction of Half Dome itself.

Donner Lake Snowshoeing, Lake Tahoe It's easy to relate to frustrated motorists returning from a weekend skiing in Tahoe, stuck in heavy interstate 80 traffic with aching legs and a long journey ahead. But spare a thought for those whose journey to the west coast was a little more arduous, and a little less certain that they'd actually make it there in one piece.

Ski Tahoe with Trailspotting We've mapped all twelve of the major Lake Tahoe ski and snowboard resorts and they're available for free download at Trailspotting. Explore the maps on Google Maps and Google Earth to get to know them better, then download them to your GPS device and hit the slopes!

Pipiwai Bamboo Trail, Maui (Hawaii) This is our favorite hike on Maui, yet for some people Hana Highway drive to the trailhead alone is excitement enough. Beginning at the rugged and remote eastern Maui coastline follow the Pipiwai stream inland and you'll soon be surrounded by dense jungle, heading towards a series of waterfalls each increasingly more impressive than the last.

iPhone and Android downloads with :
- Trailspotting Guides: Mt. Tamalpais Bundle

Hiking Yosemite National Park by Suzanne Swedo
Snowshoe Routes: Northern California by Marc Soares
Garmin eTrex Venture HC GPS Receiver


Rating:
Area: San Francisco Peninsula
Distance: 5 miles
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation gain: 800ft (from 0 to 320ft)

Whether you're in search of tranquility, great views or a little history lesson - Angel Island is the perfect choice.

Situated in the middle of the San Francisco Bay and surrounded by water on all sides, the short ferry journey to the island transports you away from, the hustle of the city and into a different world.

This five mile walking tour around the island's circumference takes in most of the major sights and curiosities, including military batteries and barracks, the immigration station known as the Ellis Island of the west" and picture perfect views all around the bay.

The island is accessible from Pier 39/41 at the heart of Fisherman's Wharf, or from a separate ferry service operating from Tiburon. Be sure to plan ahead as services to the island are limited and you'll want to make sure you'll have enough time to experience the best of the island before jumping on the last ferry home.

Be sure to explore our map for more information on this trail including photos and descriptions of the points of interest along the way.

Ferry Services:
- From San Francisco: Blue & Gold Ferries at Pier 39/41
- From Tiburon: Angel Island Ferry Company

Tangents:
- Trailspotting Images: Angel Island Perimeter Road on Flickr
- Official Website: Angel Island State Park

California Hiking by Tom Stienstra and Ann Marie Brown


Rating:
Area: Arizona
Distance: 2 miles
Type: Out-and-back
Difficulty: Medium
Elevation gain: 1,300ft (from 1,450 - 2,680ft)

Out of Bounds: Occasionally we venture beyond NorCal and we usually take our hiking boots with us. Normal service will resume very soon!

Distinctive and dominant on the Phoenix landscape, Camelback Mountain is just begging to be conquered. The two different routes to the 2,680ft summit offer different challenges, and both are featured in this guide.

Echo Canyon is the popular route, which ascends 1,400 foot up the western side of the mountain in just over a mile. The journey quickly becomes a real leg-burner but delivers some good hiking experiences and a varied terrain.

The Cholla trail heads up a well maintained trail on Camelback's east flank, but becomes a challenging and technical ascent upon reaching the ridgeline. This fun 1.3 mile route becomes increasingly rocky and precipitous, and though the conditions here are not extreme, we'd certainly urge caution and wouldn't recommend this route for young children or folk with a strong aversion to heights.

iPhone and Android downloads with :
- Trailspotting Guides: Camelback Mountain, Phoenix AZ

Tangents:
- Trailspotting Images: Camelback Mountain, Phoenix AZ on Flickr
- Official Site: Camelback Mountain, Phoenix AZ

Garmin eTrex Venture HC GPS Receiver


Rating:
Area: Arizona
Distance: 2 miles
Type: Out-and-back
Difficulty: Medium
Elevation gain: 1,100ft (from 1,550 - 2,608ft)

Out of Bounds: Occasionally we venture beyond NorCal and we usually take our hiking boots with us. Normal service will resume very soon!

Many hikers head for the hills in search of solitude, but if you're planning to hike to the summit of Piestewa Peak you'd do better to bring with you your community spirit - rarely have we seen such a busy trail.

Hikers, walkers, sightseers and runners alike flock to this prominent peak like moths to a flame, drawn here in part because of it proximity to the city of Phoenix. Despite the crowds this mountain can still be a lot of fun, offering as it does a short but taxing 1,100 ft climb and many great views along the 1 mile route.

If you feel the need to escape from the throngs, you can always extend your return journey along the much less travelled Circumference Trail which traces a flanking route around the mountain. The trip around the mountain measures around 3.1 miles from the peak trail and back to the trailhead.

Parking is a challenge, as is understanding the parking restrictions that prevail. Parking lots close at 7pm, which isn't helpful for folk who want to watch enjoy a good sunset from the summit - but there may be ways to park much later, which we explain in more detail later in the guide.

iPhone and Android downloads with :
- Trailspotting Guides: Piestewa Peak, Phoenix AZ

Tangents:
- Trailspotting Images: Piestewa Peak, Phoenix AZ on Flickr
- Official Site: Piestewa Peak, Phoenix AZ

Garmin eTrex Venture HC GPS Receiver


Rating:
Area: Arizona
Distance: 7 miles
Type: Out-and-back
Difficulty: Medium
Elevation gain: 400ft (from 5,320 to 5,660ft)

Out of Bounds: Occasionally we venture beyond NorCal and we usually take our hiking boots with us. Normal service will resume very soon!

Trekking up Oak Creek’s west fork offers one of the best hiking experiences in Sedona, an area already known as a hiker’s paradise. The steep canyon walls and the shade of trees make this a perfect trail if you’re looking to avoid the heat of the Arizona sun.

Trace the creek upstream along pleasant sandy trails and thirteen separate river crossings and enjoy the imposing views of the canyon walls towering above you. Unless the waters are high, the crossings are relatively easy, and the elevation gain on this trail is slight.

The trail ends where the canyon walls close in on you and there’s nowhere else to go without getting your feet wet. Enjoy the great views, make the most of the photo opportunities and marvel at how the water has etched away at the rock over the millennia.

If you’re suitably equipped, you can continue to wade upstream for another quarter of a mile or so. The pebbly creek bed can be a little hard on bare feet, but it might be tolerable to you - also be careful of the smoother rock surfaces underfoot which are particularly slippery.

Eleven miles north of Sedona, the trailhead at the Call of the Canyon day use area has limited parking availability, which may be an inconvenience to some, but early arrivals will enjoy a relatively uncrowded trail.

If you’re following our GPS route, be aware that coverage in high-sided canyons can be spotty and sometimes misleading due to signals echoing off walls. However, the route up the canyon is simple to follow and it’s even harder to get lost.

iPhone and Android downloads with :
- Trailspotting Guides: Sedona's Oak Creek - West Fork

Tangents:
- Trailspotting Images: Sedona's Oak Creek West Fork on Flickr
- Official Site: Coconino National Forest

Garmin eTrex Venture HC GPS Receiver